I wrote a few months ago that I re-activated my Facebook account after a 4 year hiatus. It was mainly done to be able to access the different parenting groups in Hong Kong (Hong Kong dads, Hong Kong moms, and so on), but I kept some of my friends from before, and noticed there have been some changes to how Facebook is used now compared to 4 years ago.
- It’s much more serious. Long ago, it was a little but lighter in spirit, with more “fun” things posted. Now, it’s all about the causes you are into. Most of the time with the older users it’s about outrage (“can you believe XYZ? The world is going to hell!”). With the younger users it’s about self promotion of their personal brand.
- A lot less posts. People used to post all the time. Now, it looks like people have mellowed out and see it more as a tool, rather than a social site for sharing what is happening in your life – or they have realized that being social does not mean sharing every tiny little detail all the time.
- It’s a lot less personal. Building on the last points, the posts now don’t really give you, the friend, an idea of who the person is, compared to years ago when people seemed more into it.
- People just don’t seem that into it. Most people seem to see it as just another thing to use, and you can see that their lives don’t revolve around being on Facebook. This is a big, refreshing change from 4 years ago.
- It seems like a shell. To wrap up all the points from above, it feels like everyone has a Facebook account, and they know they should post on it occasionally, but they don’t really care about sharing too much, they don’t really want to do it, and they only use it because there’s nothing else out there. Since everyone is so serious, the serious topics get a lot of strongly worded debate, and the humor seems reserved for maybe places like twitter.
Overall I am not really surprised that Facebook has “matured” in my absence, but I am surprised at how it turned from a fairly active and transparent view into everyone’s lives into a bit of a shell of whatever the person wants to portray, a bit apathetically, about their lives. The one thing that people seem to be putting effort into is social issues, which comes in the form of being heard with regards to a current social issue. It’s a really interesting development, and it only leaves me eager to see what the next Facebook will be. Who knows?!